North Korea—Still an Intelligence Problem


  • Stephan Blancke


Bongwhajo, North Korean intelligence, Chinese intelligence, drug trade, organised crime, Princelings, clan structures, intelligence cooperation in East Asia


A few years after Kim Jong Un came into office, North Korea is still attracting controversy in the headlines, and political sanctions are still in operation. Despite the harsh measures in place to isolate Pyongyang from sources of money and luxury, the rulers are able to get what they want using front companies or the help of other states. The reasons for this are deeply rooted in the North Korean political structure. A network of high ranking officials, their children, and political minions are grappling for power and wealth. Beside the powerful Kim clan there exist other families in North Korea whose loyalty must be secured with bribes. If the loyalty of the influential families is eroded, the power base of Kim Jong Un is likely to soon diminish. As a result, the North Korean government is searching for sources of money. Illicit drugs may be one solution the ruling regime find attractive to this problem, but there appears to be a twist: struggling ordinary citizens are showing signs that they too are taking part in this illegal enterprise. This is manifested by their willingness to become involved in crime in the same way as the corrupt regime.

Author Biography

Stephan Blancke

Dr Stephan Blancke is a German-based political analyst whose research focus is on international state and non-state intelligence structures. His area of expertise is North Korean and Chinese espionage, these countries international clandestine networks, and their use of front companies. His other research interest is the current development of organised crime groups. Blancke holds a diploma in administrative law as well as a diploma in political science. His doctoral dissertation examined the private intelligence activities of non-state actors, such as religious cults and outlaw motorcycle gangs. Dr Blancke works closely with the government in Berlin, Germany.




How to Cite

Blancke, S. (2014). North Korea—Still an Intelligence Problem. Salus Journal, 2(2), 2–15`. Retrieved from



Analytical Essays